Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Just because paid family leave is a popular issue does not mean it is good for Ohio

Ohioans for Healthy Families, the union-backed group behind the Ohio Health Families Act, continues to try to gather enough signatures to have the OHFA placed on the November ballot. According to a May 28, 2008, press release by Ohioans for Healthy Families, the organization has:
already gathered over 50,000 new petition signatures and, with over 70% of Ohioans supporting paid sick day legislation, have no doubt whatsoever that we will be able to gather the number needed to put it on the November ballot. Personally, I think anyone running for legislative office this year while opposing paid sick days is playing political Russian roulette.
By law, if the Coalition gathers an additional 120,683 signatures by August 6, the Ohio Healthy Families Act will appear on the November ballot.
A poll on MSNBC.com of over 10,000 people reveals that only 28% oppose government mandated paid family leave. Further, as the MSNBC article points out, the United States severely lags behind most of the civilized world (and even some of the third world) on paid family leave benefits. The issue isn't whether paid family leave is a good idea or a bad idea. The issue is whether the Ohio Health Families Act, as written, is good for Ohio businesses, which it is not.
Separate and apart from the myriad ambiguities and other drafting problems in the legislation, which I've discussed before (see Deconstructing the Ohio Healthy Families Act), Ohio simply does not need to be on the forefront of this issue. Only three states (California, Washington, and New Jersey) currently require paid family leave. Nothing about becoming the 4h state to join this movement will make Ohio a more attractive business climate. We should be passing legislation to draw companies to Ohio, not drive them away.
There will come a time when paid leave will be a reality for all but the smallest of businesses in this country. If Obama wins in November, I expect that time to come in the next 4 years. Assuming that the OHFA makes the November ballot, Ohio voters will have to look past their own self interests and consider the greater good of the state. Is it more important to have a few days of paid medical leave per employee, or have more businesses choose to call Ohio home, which creates more jobs and less of a tax strain for everyone?